Cobra Skulls Devin Peralta Talks ‘Bringing the War Home’
By: Christopher Mitchell
“We usually do the acoustic thing in coffee shops,” joked Cobra Skulls vocalist and bassist Devin Peralta to a sizable Tennessee audience.Skulls drummer Luke Ray was sidelined with the flu, forcing Peralta and guitarist Adam Beck to perform a low-key set on the unanticipated final stop of the NOFX/Bouncing Souls southern U.S. tour. Fat Mike’s severe laryngitis has led to the postponement of remaining shows in Charlotte, North Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia.
Nevertheless, Cobra Skulls played a durable acoustic set that included songs “Back to the Youth,” “The Preacher and the Man-Whore,” and the caustic new track “Hot Sand.” In Ray’s absence, the band received help from Old Man Markley’s Joey Garibaldi on tambourine and fiddler Katie Weed on the “The Streets of Cairo (Cobralectric).”The band’s blistering intensity was stilted a bit, but the unplugged performance amplified Peralta’s biting lyricism and Beck’s skilled guitar work.
If you don’t know them already, Cobra Skulls have been around since 2005. After releasing two albums and a handful of 7” singles for Red Scare Records, the band released their latest EP ‘Bringing the War’ Home on Fat Wreck Chords back in January.
I was fortunate enough to catch Devin Peralta after the band’s performance and ask him a few questions about the new EP.
If there’s a theme to the new EP, it’s that you’re drawing attention to a lot of issues happening around the world that Americans are completely oblivious to. Do you agree?
Totally, that’s probably the best someone’s put it. The topics on the record are varied, but I’m talking about immigration on “ICE in the Night,” environmental issues on “Doomsday Parade,” and our foreign policy on “Hot Sand.” I was writing about how, as a nation, no one really knows or cares about what’s going on with these issues unless there’s an election or when we’re going to war. With this war in the Middle East, you don’t see anyone growing victory gardens or conserving scrap metal for the cause like Americans did during World War II. During that war, people were asked to conserve energy and conserve fuel among other things. It was a united effort. This war is nothing like that, and many people don’t know what is happening over there.
You can see that idea in the EP’s cover art. You have the photogenic young people in the foreground, and all hell’s breaking loose behind them. How did you choose the art for the EP?
The cover was done by Martha Rosler, an artist famous for her feminist work about social issues including anti-war protest art. She had a series during Vietnam called “Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful” that she then reprised for the War in Iraq. I knew I wanted to title the record Bringing the War Home before I knew about her series. When I learned about her work, I emailed her and asked if we could use one of her photographs. I told her we didn’t have a big art budget but she agreed to let us use the art for a small cost after she read some of the lyrics I had written.
Let’s talk about the first song on the EP, “Doomsday Parade.” You have a line in the song, “Keep on repeating the mistakes we’ve made.” What environmental issues are you addressing?
Where should I start? There’s so much. It comes back to the way our society runs. We’re a Christian society, but I think so many faith-based initiatives are harmful to the planet. Then, look at overpopulation. We’ve overpopulated the planet by a billion people. For the entire world’s population to live like we do in the United States, we would need five planets worth of resources. We just can’t go on like this. The shit’s gonna hit the fan in the next 20-40 years.
You mention Africa in the song. Speaking of resources, there’s so much going on in Africa including the potential for wars over water. People having to fight for access to it.
Speaking of that, Nestlé is just buying water all over the continent of Africa. Fuck chocolate. Nestle is going for water because they know of its value.Going back to this war, we’re fighting it for energy. But if it comes down to fighting for it, we can make more energy.Water is a different big issue. There’s only so much of it on the planet, and how much of it is potable?
The song “ICE in the Night” tells the story of a man named Manuel who was abducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Is this, in fact, a true story?
Yes, it’s a true story. My uncle’s right-hand man on his farm Manuel, who is a legal resident and has a green card just as it says in the song, was basically kidnapped from his home at 4 in the morning. They came to his home, took him out in shackles, put him on four different plane flights, and placed him in a processing camp in Texas. He was about to be deported. Luckily, my uncle got his lawyers working on it right away, and he got Manuel home safe.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about this happening. I used to work for a Spanish-English newspaper in Reno where I covered a similar issue in the Bay Area about ICE raids that were totally fucked up. They were going after legal citizens, invading people’s lives and homes. To me, that’s abduction. It’s kidnapping. It’s terrorism. They think it’s helping America, but it’s not helping anyone.
Again, that’s something many Americans don’t know much about.
Right.To me, it finally hit home, and I thought how many times could this happen? How can they even be that idiotic to do this to someone who has a green card? It’s a government agency that’s taking tax money to keep Americans “safe” from illegal aliens, whatever that means. It’s a waste of money and it’s based on racism. If Mexicans were white, no one would give a shit. The border disputes, for instance, are about 100% racism and xenophobia. So I was pissed off about it and had to write about it.
The song “Hot Sand” has the verse: “Cause the rich kids are always complaining / And there’s an army in the ghetto that’s waiting / To trade in hand guns for rifles and grenades / Singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ / And get’r done / In the white-hot sand.”What are you saying here?
It’s really about this war and the differences between the wealthy and the middle class and the poor. I mean, the United States can go on with our war without a draft, because the wealthy and middle class parents will find a way to get themselves out of it.
If look at the draft during Vietnam, the wealthy and privileged were able to get themselves out it. There’s no draft right now and hasn’t been since Vietnam, so when I’m saying “rich kids are always complaining,”it goes back to that in a way. If a wealthy or middle class kid was drafted during Vietnam, his parents would get lawyers to get him out of it. For example, my uncle Tom was drafted, and he had a low, low draft number. He was a middle class college student, so his family got lawyers and they were able to get him out of going.
That doesn’t work the same way for the poor, and it never has. The poor are the ones who often sign up to be in the army. They’re convinced that it’s a guarantee for a better life. They think they’re gonna get their G.I. Bill, they’re gonna get money to go to school. So, the lines “There’s an army in the ghetto that’s waiting / To trade in hand guns for rifles and grenades,” I’m saying why instate a draft, when wealthy and educated people can get themselves out of it, and the poor cannot? Poor people are less educated, regardless of color, and they are the ones who often sign up to be in the army because they have nothing else going for them.
Cobra Skulls’ latest 5-song EP Bringing the War Home is available now via Fat Wreck Chords.